Warning: this review contains spoilers
One day, Ramon (Eddie Garcia), a very old man in his 80s, tells his children his lifelong secret: he’s gay. Gay and still very much in love with his best friend Fredo (Tony Mabesa), who is dying of cancer. Without hesitation, Ramon packs his bags and moves in with Fredo to be with him until his last breath.
While Ramon’s beautiful wife Sylvia (Gloria Romero) is very supportive of her husband’s decision to stay with Fredo, the kids—the eldest loser son Emman (Tirso Cruz III), the town mayor Georgina (Aiko Melendez), and the youngest and meddling life-expert Fe (Sunshine Cruz)—are outraged.
Rainbow’s Sunset, the 2018 MMFF Best Picture directed by Joel Lamangan, with a script by Enrique Ramos, is terribly literal and preachy with no interest in subtlety. Everything is spelled out to the audience in a very melodramatic fashion.
The film, instead of deciding to become a soulful character study, has only one brazen concern: to advocate and defend homosexuality through its admonishing dialogue. It’s not interested in making us connect with Ramon or Fredo, or with Sylvia. These characters are, instead, used as mere mouthpieces to spread the LGBT gospel.
On the pro-LGBT side are Sylvia and Fe. On the anti-LGBT side are Emman and Georgina. The anti-gay characters were given lines to sound like bigoted closed-minded idiots that view homosexuality as a phase. They are particularly concerned with image. What will the small town of San Martin think when they find out that their dad, a former senator, is now living with another man?
So these judgmental kids, who represent all the judgmental anti-gay Filipinos out there, are made to be morally questionable. The film then branches out into various subplots—each child is given a story in order to accuse them of being hypocritical. So, with these necessary subplots, expect the movie to stretch on for a total of two hours.
Riding smugly on their moral high horses, the kids are either flawed or sinful: Emman is a philandering pervert, while Georgina has a broken family with a bully for a son. Meanwhile, single mom Fe is embarrassed for having a boy toy. How dare these prejudiced adults with imperfect secret lives or skewed principles judge their father—who has done nothing wrong but to love another man? The film lectures.
Apart from cardboard characters, the film lacks conflict and tension. To begin with, the film opens with Ramon giving a speech in a school auditorium, recounting his fond childhood memories with best friend Fredo before announcing that Fredo is dying. So after announcing to the public that he is BFFs with Fredo, and he decides to stay with Fredo in his home, what’s the big deal? Even if the two old men aren’t lovers, it is not scandalous for an old man to be with his dying best friend.
Ramon and Fredo’s show of affection is holding hands in public, which makes the entire town wild. Two old men holding hands—the other is known to be dying—is not exactly a shocking sight, but a simple display of tenderness that even the most anti-LGBT person will probably not find offensive in real life.
To further strip the story of real conflict, Romero’s Sylvia is designed to love Fredo as well. The three of them—she, Ramon, and Fredo—love each other to bits, so saccharinely sweet, and it’s supposed to be heart-warming. But it feels contrived. Especially with the fact that the Estrella family owes their good life to Fredo.
So hateful is this film of people who cannot accept the LGBT community that Ramon, in the end, pens a scathing letter against his daughter on her 50th birthday celebration to scold her (and the anti-gay audience) about her myopic attitudes toward homosexuality. Even if Georgina is heartless (with her silly seating arrangement), what kind of a father is that? Planning to attack, demean and humiliate his own daughter in public? And on her special day?
Rainbow’s Sunset has a lot of potential to become a goldmine of emotions with its very promising and fascinating premise complete with commendable actors. It could have been experiential— the pain and struggle of a homosexual dad and his dying lover, the wrenching psychological and emotional distress of a wife married to a gay man, old age and death threatening to take away your great love, and reluctant adult children who must cope with this shocking plot twist in their family drama.
But instead of giving us a rich, beautiful tale of human flaws and differences, and a story of coming out in the twilight years, it offers nothing but a bitter and shallow defense of the LGBT. Oftentimes unintentionally funny and ladled with histrionics, it is unable to strike or warm the heart.
1.5 out of 5 stars
The Metro Manila Film Festival runs from Dec. 25, 2018 to Jan. 7, 2019